Steelers second-year wide receiver Justin Brown is looking to disprove the adage "dance with the date you brought."
While he's hard at work honing his skills in he art of playing wide receiver in the NFL, he also recognizes the best chance he has to continue that work, and continue getting paid, is to provide value as a special teams contributor.
Post Gazette reporter Ray Fittipaldo spoke with Brown for a piece in Wednesday's P-G, where Brown spoke about his efforts to make this team in whatever way he can.
"They say all the time if you’re not a starter you have to be on one of the special teams, so that’s what I’m shooting for," Brown said, quoted by Fittipaldo. "I’m just trying to do whatever I have to do to contribute to the team. Having another year under my belt and being more comfortable with the offense and with Danny Smith on special teams, I’m doing whatever I can do."
The Steelers lost a key kick returner when Emmanuel Sanders signed with the Denver Broncos, and former Steelers running back and kick returner Felix Jones isn't expected to return this season. Those two accounted for 33 of the 43 kick returns the Steelers had in 2013. The Steelers selected Dri Archer in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft, and he has to be looked at as the favorite for kick returning duties this year. The Steelers haven't typically entrusted return duties to rookies from the start of the season, so Brown may have something of an opportunity come training camp to establish himself as a dual-purpose player.
That may be his key to beating out Derrick Moye, Darrius Heyward-Bey and others for the team's final receiver spot - the Steelers are expected to keep five receivers, and neither Moye nor Heyward-Bey have special teams experience. That isn't to say neither are looking to do the same thing Brown is.
And if they aren't perhaps they should start looking into it. The first four receiver spots are pretty much set; Antonio Brown, Markus Wheaton, Lance Moore and Martavis Bryant won't have their roster spots challenged. Whichever of the three, Justin Brown, Moye and Heyward-Bey, will win that spot may come down to the one who brings the most to the team.